One week after the repulsive attacks of terrorism on American soil, it is safe to say all of our lives have changed in one way or another. While we feel a combination of shock, anger, and sadness over the human suffering, there is also an undeniable feeling among many people that something good will come out of this, that America and its allies will build a stronger union in an attempt to rid the world of evil.
One result is a stronger sense of community than many of us have ever experienced. By definition, a community is not restricted to a geographic area. It can consist of people from around the world who share common interests. Your community may be a city, town, or village. It also may be a church, the neighborhood coffee shop, or even a racetrack. The community can be a spiritual place with no physical location.
For many people in the horse industry, Keeneland was both a spiritual and physical community in the hours and days after the terrorists struck. During difficult times, there is comfort in being around people with shared interests. One of those interests at Keeneland is the love of the Thoroughbred, and horse-loving people mourned, prayed, and dealt with this tragedy together.
As the events unfolded on the morning of Sept. 11, the people at Keeneland were there for business--the commerce of buying and selling prospective racehorses--but it was impossible for them to keep their minds on business. Postponing that day's sale was the only thing to do.
Keeneland officials also were correct in resuming the activities the following day, Sept. 12. The September yearling sale is the most important marketplace for the agribusiness crops produced on Thoroughbred breeding farms. Last year's sale generated revenue of nearly $292 million. To cancel or further delay the business of selling horses would have yielded unnecessary economic hardship.
Thoroughbred people rallied around the decision to continue selling at Keeneland. Their community includes a diverse group, from former Marine Fred Seitz, whose Brookdale Farm consignment proudly flew the American flag on the Keeneland grounds, to princes and sheikhs from Persian Gulf nations.
Seitz and other consignors make their living in the horse business and it was no surprise to see them at Keeneland. By contrast, Sheikh Mohammed, the minister of defense for the United Arab Emirates, could have been excused for not being there when the sale resumed. He had other things on his mind, given that many of the terrorists came from the Persian Gulf region. But the sheikh wanted to "make a statement," in the words of Keeneland president Nick Nicholson.
Shortly after arriving, Sheikh Mohammed spoke briefly with the media about the terrorists. "We will do anything we can to get these people to justice," he said, his eyes filled with rage. "We shouldn't stop with our lives, to let them gain anything. We should get on with our lives and bring these people to justice."
The sheikh then turned his attention to the horses he loves, buying one of the first yearlings through the ring and remaining active throughout the day.
Sheikh Mohammed wasn't alone in seeing that the bloodstock market would not be another victim of the terrorists. Saudi Arabian Prince Ahmed Salman went against the advice some had given him to stay away from Keeneland the day after the attacks. Though appearing stunned by the tragedy, Salman was an active bidder on a number of top offerings. The Coolmore team of John Magnier and Demi O'Byrne was as strong as ever, as were many other regular buyers at select yearling sales.
People in the Thoroughbred community are mourning. They are shocked. They are angry. They also are trying to get on with their lives. b
Members of the Thoroughbred community mourned, prayed, and dealt with tragedy together.